On May 7, 2014, in Red Rock Canyon, Waterton Lakes National Park, the weather was poor, and the access road was narrow and in bad shape, discouraging visitors that day. As I turned a corner, I saw the bear in the photo and stopped about 150-200 meters away. I took this shot and waited for the bear to get a bit further away from the road. I was downwind and when his attention turned to something on the edge of the clearing, I checked that the windows were rolled up and drove past him. He took notice and looked me in the eye as I drove safely by. I realized that a foolhardy decision on my part to try and get that award-winning photo by stopping closer would most certainly have resulted in unpleasant consequences for both the bear and me. It was spring, and he was hungry.

Fast forward to June 21, 2016. The road is now a seamless ribbon of asphalt through the valley, filled with SUV’s and people driving sports cars faster than their skills and the narrow road allow. There was no wildlife in sight; this is the double edge sword of wilderness access. When we increase access, we also increase the number of visitors who are a risk to themselves and the wildlife around them.

With access, comes the responsibility to be a good guest in the homes we visit.

Good guests show respect, stay out of the way of their hosts, and get out of their way safely when necessary. If we don’t show and enforce respect for the residents of our wilderness areas, we run the risk of having great access to vast expanses of empty land.

 

- Kevin Mihalcheon

 

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